Latest Haul and Impressions: Buster Bros. & Battletech

March 7, 2008 by · 2 Comments 

Latest Haul: Buster Bros. & BattletechBelieve it or not, I’ve been pretty busy with retro gaming lately.  I may not be posting much, but I’ve been playing a lot of my Turbo, lurking messageboards, and watching eBay like a hawk.  My latest acquisitions are Battletech (Genesis) and Buster Bros. (TurboGrafx-CD).  Battletech was a nice find, because someone at work posted to the internal classifieds that they were giving it away for free.  Being the collector I am, I immediately put dibs on it!  I was bummed to see that he took the poster that was included with the game and hung it up in his office, but hey, free is free.  Buster Bros., on the other hand, was an eBay purchase.  It’s a fun little game that turned out to be a pretty good deal — it’s in pristine condition.  Anyway, here are my thoughts after playing them each a bit:

  • Battletech (Genesis): It’s a top-down/isometric shooter reminiscent of the Strike series, but you pilot a mech in the Battletech universe.  It’s a well-made game with nice graphics and controls, but wow!  It is brutally hard!  I still haven’t passed the first level!  This one is going to take some serious playtime to dig into. (Free, from a coworker)
  • Buster Bros. (TurboGrafx-CD): This is a fun little old-school arcade game.  There are a bunch of bouncing spheres invading the Earth, wreaking havoc, and it’s your job to destroy them all.  When you shoot a sphere, it splits into two smaller ones until, finally, the smallest ones can be destroyed.  You get more points for shooting multiple spheres of the same size in a row, so you’re rewarded for filling the screen with tiny, hard to avoid, bouncing balls — it gets pretty hectic!  The soundtrack makes use of the CD format, the graphics are simple but charming, and the gameplay is straightforward but challenging and addictive.  ($5.17, eBay)

Anyway, I’m on a real TurboGrafx kick these days.  I think I might flesh out my collection a bit… Of course, I should probably get around to writing some reviews before I do.  But we’ll see about that! (My source for good screenshots is gone, so I’ve kinda been using that as an excuse not to write any lately ;))

Latest Haul: 3DO Testing Station and more!

February 11, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Latest Haul: 3DO Testing Station and more!Alright, I admit it… I splurged.  Last year, I started dabbling in homebrew for the 3DO, and while I did make some progress, I hit a wall pretty fast.  I managed to get a couple simple demos written and created a nice development environment with the official SDK and a Mac emulator, but not much more.

The thing about the 3DO is that software has to be encrypted to run on it, and the problem is that the encryption tools are not part of the SDK — any software had to be sent off to The 3DO Company to be approved and encrypted before release.  But now The 3DO Company doesn’t exist.  D’oh.  Without a way of actually running the demos I’d written on real hardware, there wasn’t much progress to be made.  That is, unless I could get my hands on a 3DO Testing Station.

The 3DO Testing Station is a version of the hardware that was sent to developers for testing and is capable of running unencrypted software — there’s a small switch on the back to go back and forth between Encrypted and Unencrypted.  So, if I wanted to write my own programs, I’d either have to crack the encryption (yeah, right) or get myself a Testing Station.  I kept my eye on eBay for quite some time with an automatic search, and not much came up.  Finally, last week, another one appeared (along with a handful of games) and I decided to pull the trigger.  I paid a little more than I would have liked, but now I can stop searching and get started on some real projects.  Hey, it’ll be a learning experience.  It’s worth it, right?

On top of eBay, I also did a little shopping at another local game store I just discovered, Play N Trade Video Games.  It turned out to be a pretty small store, and their classic selection was nothing compared to my favorite local store (see me gush about PrePlayed here) but it was still worth making the trip — I managed to snag a complete Virtua Cop 2 for the Saturn for a nice price.  They also had Bubble Bobble for the Saturn, but it was $23.99, disc-only.  I’ve been wanting that game for years, but not disc-only.  I also got to overhear an amusing conversation between the clerk and a middle-aged man inquiring about the Atari Jaguar.  The customer mentioned something about the Jaguar being “really rare” and about $100 on eBay.  I almost felt like butting in to mention I had one, and that I got it brand new in the box for $25 several years ago, but decided that it’d be kinda… nerdy… for me to jump in with that tidbit.

And, finally, I also got issue #9 of Video Game Collector.  This is a magazine I’ve considered subscribing to in the past, but never did.  Luckily for me, the publisher was offering free issues over at the Digital Press forums several weeks ago, so I decided to take advantage of that.  Can’t go wrong with free!  Maybe I’ll pick up the back catalog…

In summary, here’s the rundown of everything I got in the last few days:

  • 3DO Testing Station and games: This is the Testing Station hardware along with a nice, revised Panasonic control-pad.  The controller is smaller, more comfortable, and has a much more responsive D-Pad.  This one gives the Logitech controller a run for its money.  Also in the package were disc-only copies of Alone in the Dark, Ballz, Battle Chess, Gex, Killing Time, Space Hulk, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Way of the Warrior, and Sampler #2 (with the much-needed memory manager).  I already had Gex, Killing Time, and Space Hulk, and Sampler #2 is a demo, so that’s five new games to add to my “to review” list.  $173 (+$25 shipping) on eBay.
  • Virtua Cop 2: I really like the original, so I’ve been casually keeping an eye out for Virtua Cop 2.  I wasn’t actively looking to get it, but when I saw it at Play N Trade for $4.99, I couldn’t say no!  The case could use some cleanup, but it’s otherwise complete.
  • Video Game Collector Issue #9: Ah, a whole magazine to indulge my video game nerdery!  This issue even had a feature on one of my favorite topics — obscure consoles.  The magazine could use some polish overall in terms of editing and layout, but it’s good fun for hobbyists.  I’m considering getting the full back catalog + subscription bundle now. Free, via the Digital Press forums.

Latest Haul: F-Zero, The Lion King, and More

January 19, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Latest Haul: F-Zero, The Lion King, and MoreWhat’s this?  A post to The Retro Review Project?  I know, I know, I’ve been lax lately (okay, really lax), but sometimes gaming just takes a back seat to life.  But I’m starting to feel the pull of the old consoles again, so here I am.  The last four months have been slow, but I’ve made a couple trips lately to my favorite store in the world (Pre-Played on the west side of Madison, WI… Used games for systems dating back to the Atari, plus used DVDs, CDs, and books.  What more could a geek want?).  Here’s everything I’ve picked up since my last update in September:

  • The Lion King (Genesis): I saw this, along with Aladdin and Mickey’s Castle of Illusion.  I was tempted to get all three, but decided buying all those Disney games at once might seem a little fruity!  Instead, I just went with The Lion King.  This is one of my girlfriend’s old favorites, so I figured we could geek out together and play it.  For $2.99, I couldn’t pass it up.  Unfortunately, Aladdin and Castle of Illusion were gone the last time I went  back to the store.  Oh well, I’ll keep an eye out for them in the future.
  • Dogbone Controller (NES): I’ve been wanting to pick up one of these controllers for a while, but never saw any outside of eBay.  Once I started playing my NES more, I realized how awful the sharp corners on the standard NES pad really are.  The store had a mix of standard, Advantage, and Max controllers, plus this one dogbone.  I quickly snatched it up for $4.99.
  • Nintendo Power Mints (Swag): The one thing on this list that didn’t come from Pre-Played, this is a clever little stocking stuffer my girlfriend got me for Christmas.  It’s a tin of mints in the shape of an NES controller with the Nintendo Power logo.  Apparently, Urban Outfitters carries them.  I may use it as a DS game case once I’m done with the mints.
  • F-Zero (SNES): I had F-Zero X for the N64, F-Zero GX for the GameCube, and F-Zero: Maximum Velocity for the GBA, but never had the orignal SNES launch title.  That’s now rectified, at a reasonable $6.99 (cart-only).
  • The Wizard (DVD): I normally just check out the game section when I go to Pre-Played, but last time, I took a look at the DVDs, as well.  When I saw this on the shelf, my eyes got really wide, and I just said “Oh, woah!”  I couldn’t resist — especially since I’ve been thinking about reviewing some old game-related movies for this site.  I bought it with little hesitation, for $7.99.

I also picked up Soul Calibur for the Dreamcast, but since the DC doesn’t fit my definition of a retro/classic game console (yet), I’m not going to include that in my official list.  This was a replacement for a copy that I lent a friend back in college, which I never got back!  I also bought Final Fantasy (NES) and an FC Twin, but those were Christmas presents for a friend, so they don’t quite count for this list, either.  Anyway, stay tuned… I should have some impressions and reviews on the way.

RetroMacro (9/7/07)

September 7, 2007 by · 4 Comments 

RetroMacro (9/7/07)Alright, it’s been a while since we’ve done a RetroMacro, so how about a new one?  Take a gander at the picture to your left and see if you can figure out what it is… I’ll give you a hint.  It’s a controller!  What?  That didn’t help much?  Well, sorry, I’m not going to give it away completely.  That wouldn’t be any fun at all, would it?  You have to figure out what system it is on your own.  As usual, there’s a bit more of a hint if you click the picture.  This one shouldn’t be too hard, though.  I hope.  Leave a comment if you think you got it!

The spirit of classic games

August 23, 2007 by · 3 Comments 

Killer 7I’ve been posting to The Retro Review Project a little less lately, and that’s mainly because I’ve been playing fewer classic games, so I had less to say.  My game playing goes in cycles, I guess you could say.  Sometimes I buy and play a lot of games, sometimes I don’t buy or play any.  But anyway, what I’m getting at is that I’ve been playing some newer games lately that don’t directly relate to the site.  At least, that’s what I thought at first.

Specifically, I’ve been playing through Killer 7 on the GameCube, and I realized today that it reminds me a lot of classic games.  Sure, the puzzle-solving aspect hearkens back to old adventure games, but it’s not just that.  It’s mostly that it left me with the thought of “I have never played anything like this ever before.”  I realized that’s something I don’t get to say very often anymore.  But years ago, when I was new to games and the industry itself was still young, that’s something I was able to say a lot.  It seems that genres and gameplay mechanics were being created on a much more frequent basis in those days.  So in that regard, Killer 7 has captured an important element of classic games — it’s doing something different.

So I got to thinking.  What other recent games have captured the spirit of classic games?  I think Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are both similar to Killer 7 in that they give you that “Wow, this is different” feeling.  Psychonauts has an undeniable classic game feel — not surprising, since it was created by Tim Schafer (of Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, and Grim Fandango fame).  What else?  Maybe Hotel Dusk?  Or Geometry Wars?  Chime in if you’ve got other suggestions.

RetroTube: Classic Genesis Commercials

August 13, 2007 by · 1 Comment 

Young Bobby EngelsPart of the reason I like old video games is the nostalgia factor.  These games remind me of my childhood and bring about many of the same feelings I experienced back then.  It’s probably for the same reason that I enjoy old commercials from that time, as well.  So, let’s take a moment and combine the two, shall we?

I recently posted one of the worst game commercials I’ve ever seen, but let’s take things in a slightly different direction this time.  How about some of those old commercials we remember so fondly?  For people my age, the classic commercial battle was the one that was waged in the 16-bit era between Sega and Nintendo.  Sega, especially, was known for their ad campaign, including a number of “inflammatory” commercials that attempt to trash the competition (i.e. Nintendo).

First up, let’s kick things off with the simple story of young Bobby Engles and how the Genesis “Fighting System” with Streets of Rage 2 earned him some respect at school, all while saving him $40!

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But don’t forget that classic catchphrase: “Genesis Does…”

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“…What Nintendon’t!”

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=731267065283822381And let’s not forget when Sega tried to use “Blast Processing” to pass the Genesis off as more powerful than the Super Nintendo…

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Or when they tried to use the Sega CD and 32X as trump cards because the SNES didn’t have expensive, unused add-ons like the Genesis!

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Well, Nintendo has something to say to that…

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Tons more after the break!  Enjoy…

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Latest Haul (and Impressions): Icebreaker II

August 9, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Icebreaker IIWell, what’s this?  A new 3DO release?  That’s right… As I mentioned on one of the first posts to this blog, OlderGames.com was planning to bring us several new 3DO games.  Well, the time is now.  The Classic Gaming Expo has come and gone, the games are officially released, and everyone that placed a pre-order has the game in their hands.

All of the games that OlderGames has released were incomplete works-in-progress and are at various levels of playability.  Powerslide seems barely playable.  Decathlon is playable, but with a fair number of bugs.  Onside looks quite stable, but doesn’t interest me much.  Icebreaker II, on the other hand, feels like it was very much ready for an official release, and that’s why it’s the only one I decided to buy.  The only thing that indicates the game isn’t finished is that there is space on the level select screen for 150 levels, but only 118 are present.  (Oddly enough, levels 149 and 150 have been created even though 117-148 don’t exist.)  On top of that, there’s a whole collection of small tech demos to play around with, outside the scope of the game itself.

So how is it?  Was it worth waiting 13 years after the origial release for the sequel?  Well, I guess it depends on how much you were actually anticipating it in that time.  For someone like me, that hasn’t played the first and only found out there was an unreleased sequel a couple years ago, it wasn’t a bad wait at all!  But I pity those who were waiting with baited breath (if any of you exist).  Not that it’s a bad game, but rather… Why would you be waiting with baited breath for any game for 13 years? (Says the guy waiting for the NiGHTS sequel.  D’oh.)

For the unfamiliar, I think the best way to describe Icebreaker is as a puzzle-slash-shooter game.  The object is, as a floating white pyramid, to float around each level destroying all of the other pyramids.  Most of the pyramids are static and can be broken either by running into them or shooting them.  Some take more shots than others, some take more rapid shots than others, some turn into pools of acid, some turn into pools of lava.  On top of that, there is a constant onslaught of mobile enemy pyramids closing in on you, so you have to negotiate destroying them while destroying the static pyramids.

Though I haven’t played much yet, I think I can confidently say I’ve never played another game quite like this one (of course, like I said, I never played the first game).  From what I’ve seen, Icebreaker II is fresh and fun.  The concept is unique and I really like the colorful, cartoon-like graphical style.  Naturally, I’ll have a full review sometime in the future…

It lives!

August 9, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, my trusty laptop that I do all my work from died.  Well, I’m happy to say that it’s back in service!  After a failed Craigslist deal and one bad replacement motherboard from eBay, I finally got a working part today.  Now it’s good as new!

Funny thing is that I got so fed up with dealing with it that I went out and bought a new laptop over the weekend.  But I hate it, so I think I’m going to return it.  I can’t stand Windows Vista.  Perhaps it’s fitting that I like my old laptop more than my new one.  After all, I do enjoy old video games more than new ones…

(P.S.: More frequent posting resumes immediately.)

Library of Congress to preserve video games

August 6, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Library of CongressI’ve noticed a bit of concern amongst classic game enthusiasts about proper preservation of older games.  Their concerns range from digital downloads replacing physical items (what happens when a download service is no longer available) to online games becoming unplayable (what happens when a company decides it’s not profitable to keep running servers) to hardware deteriorating over time (we’ve all seen what happens to an NES).  Well, fear not.  it looks like the good old Library of Congress is on the case.  On Friday, the Library announced a new program to preserve digital media of many types, including video games.

The game-news circuit seems to have picked up on the story today, and I figured I’d pass it along as well, since I’m sure this is a topic of interest for many visitors of this site.  Here are a few details:

http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2007/07-156.html 

August 3, 2007 

Digital Preservation Program Makes Awards to Preserve American Creative Works
Preserving Creative America Initiative to Engage Private Sector Creators of Films, Sound Recordings, Photographs, Cartoons and Video Games in Digital Formats

The Library of Congress, through its National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP), today announced eight partnerships as part of its new Preserving Creative America initiative to address the long-term preservation of creative content in digital form. These partners will target preservation issues across a broad range of creative works, including digital photographs, cartoons, motion pictures, sound recordings and even video games. The work will be conducted by a combination of industry trade associations, private sector companies and nonprofits, as well as cultural heritage institutions.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Interactive media are highly complex and at high risk for loss as technologies rapidly become obsolete. The Preserving Virtual Worlds project will explore methods for preserving digital games and interactive fiction. Major activities will include developing basic standards for metadata and content representation and conducting a series of archiving case studies for early video games, electronic literature and Second Life, an interactive multiplayer game.

Judging by the press release, it seems they might have particular interest in Second Life and other virtual worlds.  Let’s hope they give old video and arcade games their due, too!

What secrets CDs may hold…

July 31, 2007 by · 3 Comments 

NiGHTS - Bonus ArtThe Sega Saturn was my first CD-based console, and I remember being really intrigued by the format.  Sure, I was familiar with CDs, but I thought it was really cool that I could take these games, which were meant to be played on a console, and explore them in a number of other devices that can also play CDs.

I’m sure most of us have put a game CD into a stereo to listen to its soundtrack, but how many have put games into a PC’s CD-ROM drive to explore its contents?  Probably not quite as many.  But for me, that was a fun experience.  At the very least, it provides a little insight into the technical structure of the game.  At the very best, there may be a secret or two to uncover.

Today, I remembered the way I used to check almost every disc-based game I had in my CD-ROM in hopes of finding a few goodies and decided to give it another shot, now that I have a lot more systems to explore.  Unfortunately, my search was not particularly fruitful.  It seems 3DO games are completely unreadable in normal CD drives, Neo-Geo CD games don’t have much of interest, and TurboGrafx CD/Turbo Duo games just show up as unplayable audio CDs.

But just as I remembered, Saturn (and Dreamcast) games are particularly fun to check out.  Sometimes, you’ll just find the game’s files.  Other times, there are text files with copyright information.  Occasionally, you’ll find playable media files.  You might even find HTML files full of Japanese text.  But the best is when you find that bonus folder.  It might be called “EXTRA,” or it might even be called “SECRET.”  It’s a folder that was hidden away, just for the fans.  Most people will never even see it, but I, since I took the time to look, got to find that little bit of extra fun.

My favorite disc of goodies?  NiGHTS: Into Dreams for the Saturn.  It’s nothing too special, but it’s like a hidden treasure.  Cool not just for what it contains, but mainly just for the fact that it’s there.

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